Sophia Williams Estes
In 2006, Onor Goin was a critically ill man, on dialysis, when the Dallas morning news wrote a story about Onor, known as Bouncer, and his family.
Bouncer’s family was typical of a Native American family whose members had “married white” and tried to leave their Native heritage behind, not because they wanted to, but as a matter of self-preservation.
Bouncer’s family lost its heritage and lived under a false identity, that of being white. But Bouncer found his family’s heritage, literally, under the floor boards of the old home place, and started putting the secrets back together again. Not, I might add, without problems from the older family members who remembered all too clearly how bad it was to be “Indian.” As Bouncer put it, “to say you were Indian was material for the shotgun.”
John Williams and Eliza Wood were Cherokee and born in Georgia. Their daughter, Sophia would marry Thomas G. I. Estes in Alabama in 1868. From there, Sophia and her family would become white, as a way of protecting themselves and their children.
Sophia’s sister, Eliza Wood Williams would marry George Washington Goin, Bouncer’s ancestor.
According to Bouncer, the unofficial historian of Northeastern Denton County, some of the Cherokee broke from the exiled tribe as the Trail of Tears progressed though Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Others bolted south for Mexico and called themselves “Black Dutch,” a name he says held an “empty heritage dug from the blood and dirt and death along the Trail of Tears.”
Some Cherokees who were headed for Mexico settled in North Texas, the area surrounding Tarrant among them, in particular, the city of Watauga. They called this community, “Unega” the Cherokee word for “white.” On the deeds, it was spelled Onega. In 1880, the town no longer wanted an Indian sounding name, so they drew slips of paper for a new name and it became Aubrey.
However, when the Cherokee families originally settled here, it was an untamed frontier, perfect for people who didn’t want to be found, according to Richard McCaslin, a history professor at the University of North Texas.
The photo above is of Sophia Williams Estes, the sister of Eliza Wood Williams Goins, having just arrived from the reservation in Oklahoma. After that, she became a Black Dutch transformation, according to Bouncer.
The next picture is a large family photo take in 1885 in Aubrey. Everyone was dressed entirely in “white apparel” with no hint at all of Nativeness.
Another 55 years later, Bouncer was crawling under his grandmother’s porch retrieving potatoes from where they were kept, where it was cool, when he overheard relatives talking about the Indians and his grandparents would talk in a language he did not understand.
When he asked about the word Indian, once, his mother slapped him across the mouth.
His uncle chopped wood and chanted to the sky. Him mother told him to stay away from that uncle, that he was crazy.
The family quietly practiced Native medicine, but it was never called that.
And the family made moonshine, Bouncer’s grandmother in particular. When his grandmother, Granny Laura, was elderly, Bouncer would sneak her a bit of moonshine, since she was living in her tee-totaler daughter’s house, and Granny Laura would tell him about smoke signals between her husband and the Comanches. He heard the stories of old Georgia, how the houses were invaded by solders, the violence and the death along the Trail to Oklahoma and Texas – and more.
In 1953 while Bouncer was in the service, Granny Laura died, and she left her house to Bouncer. He came home, ready to settle down, got married and began to remodel his grandmother’s house.
He pulled up the old linoleum. Underneath he found some old newspapers, dating as far back as the 1820s, and some were marriages, births and obituaries, with names and words underlined. He gathered them all up to throw away, but his wife advised against it. In time, Bouncer came to realize that these old clippings held the secret to his family’s past and he began a scrapbook, and began talking about his finds.
A few months later, an aunt came into the hardware store that Bouncer bought from his father and warned him to stop, pleaded with him to leave the secrets alone. She told him that he was “gonna dig deep enough that he would uncover something he would wish he hadn’t.”
Realizing the significance of the story, he began to tie it together with official documents, census records and historical documents of the region.
Finally, in 1999, Bouncer began to write about his family history, and his other historical finds, publicly for the Aubrey newspaper in a column called “Talk Under the Tipi.” He was no longer willing to keep the secret and felt compelled to share the gift his grandmother had left to him.
Bouncer joined his grandmother on July 24, 2009, but not before he preserved the story of his family and ancestors. You can read his columns today and about his heritage at http://www.bouncergoin.com/.